Journalist Arrests Show ‘Our Government Has Been Fracked’ And The 1st Amendment Hijacked

Journalist Deia Schlosberg

Journalist Deia Schlosberg

Award-winning journalist Deia Schlosberg is seriously committed to exposing the dangers of fracking and tar sands oil through producing documentaries. Last week, Schlosberg was covering a major action in North Dakota that mainstream media seemed intent on ignoring.

Schlosberg was covering a well-coordinated protest by activists in four states that shut down every single pipeline that carries Canada’s dirty tar sands oil into the United States. The documentarian was recording the action at one location — Walhalla, North Dakota.

Law Officers Went After A Journalist Doing Her Job

Officials decided that it was the filmmaker who needed to be shut down. Officers from the Pembina County Sheriff’s Department accosted and arrested her.  She was not part of the action, but simply recording it.

The county lawmen confiscated Schlosberg’s film footage and equipment and charged her with three felonies. As a result, the journalist is facing a possible 45 years in prison. Fellow filmmaker Josh Fox reported that the charges are two Class A felony charges and one Class C felony charge: conspiracy to theft of property, conspiracy to theft of services, and conspiracy to tampering with or damaging a public service.

Fox, who has worked with Schlosberg on films about climate change and the fossil fuel industry, was horrified at her treatment. He said of the sheriff’s department:

They have in my view violated the First Amendment. It’s fucking scary, it knocks the wind out of your sails, it throws you for a loop. They threw the book at Deia for being a journalist.

But the problem goes way beyond one sheriff’s department. In September, an arrest warrant was issued for journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! The charge was for misdemeanor criminal trespass, which has since been changed to a misdemeanor charge of riot. Conviction could exact both prison time and a fine.

Amy Goodman Was Also Arrested In North Dakota

Goodman’s arrest was also in North Dakota where she was covering the protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) by 160 Native Tribes. What specifically seemed to trigger official ire was that she filmed pipeline security guards attacking activists with mace and guard dogs. The image of dogs with blood on their muzzles sparked outrage nationwide.

Goodman was the only major journalist covering what was happening at the Standing Rock protests. Apparently, she was one too many for Morton County law officers — or whoever gives them their marching orders. The warrant was issued after Goodman left the state, but she has announced she will turn herself in on Monday, October 16th.

These two journalists have shown tremendous courage in the face of  fierce opposition to their efforts to expose the truth about the contamination of and the tactics by the fossil fuel industry. The response has been terrifying for anyone concerned about freedom of the press.  In an article for The Nation, Josh Fox wrote:

How [Schlosberg] and others reporting on these issues have been treated by the media and law enforcement shows that the oil-and-gas industry is contaminating them, too. Our government has also been fracked, and is serving fossil-fuel interests. 

As evidence he points to the response of the White House. When Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked about the pipeline protests, he warned:

I can tell you that both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation are investigating these reports and trying to get to the bottom of what exactly happened and what potential steps could be taken to ensure the safety and security of our energy infrastructure.

Get that? The safety and security of ‘our energy infrastructure.’ Not the safety and security of the protesters. Not the safety and security of journalists and freedom of the press. No. The safety and security of the fossil fuel industry.

Supporters Demand That Charges Be Dropped

After 48 hours in jail, journalist Schlosberg was finally released from jail. Josh Fox began circulating a letter for signatures that demands that the charges against her be dropped. It says, in part:

Journalism, especially documentary filmmaking, is not a crime it’s a responsibility.

The letter can be found on the site for the film Fox made with Scholosberg, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change. It has been signed by journalists, activists, actors, filmmakers, musicians, writers, and many others who care about freedom of the press. Any of us can go on over to the site and add our names. Our freedom depends on it.

Feature photo, Deia Schlosberg on Twitter.

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Deborah Montesano

Deborah Montesano is a political blogger and social activist. In spite of years of monitoring the political scene in America, she remains optimistic about the future.
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